This past week provided us with another "radio petri dish" in the form of the Led Zeppelin reunion show at the O2 arena in London. Agree or disagree, but I would submit this was the biggest event in Rock n' Roll in at least the last two decades.
So how did Rock/Classic Rock radio deal with this once-in-a-lifetime concert? Did stations step up, work hard, and enjoy the halo effect this event provided? Or did they simply mail it in by just barely acknowledging the concert with just pedestrian on-air features?
Well, a number of stations and personalities took advantage of this opportunity, and did some incredible things. The Bone in San Francisco sent listeners to the concert. And notably, the station used its website as a social networking tool to evoke the emotion of the Zep reunion in the form of listener memories of the band.
97Rock in Buffalo was all over the event, utilizing the heritage and knowledge of their veteran airstaff to virtually take listeners to London (yes, a little "theater of the mind"), including a "concert echo" broadcast of the show's set list in very close to real time. Their website also contained Zep videos - under the banner of "I Can't Quit YouTube." Yes, there are great alternatives, even if you don't have tickets to give away.
WCSX here in Detroit took a different approach, sending their morning show - J.J. & Lynne - to the show, providing their audience with two great shows from London (interviews with everyone from Ann Wilson to Paul Rodgers to Steve Winwood), along with atmospheric video blogs. It was great radio to finish off the fall book.
Finally, KISW programmer Dave Richards made the trek to London himself. Below is a link to his story of his love affair with Zeppelin and Rock n' Roll, and his sojourn to the O2 Arena in search of the Zeppelin "holy grail." Dave's passion, energy, and imagination are on display here, speaking volumes about the mega-impact of this event. If you were ambivalent about this concert before Monday, you won't be after reading Dave's journal.
But on the other side, many stations simply missed this incredible opportunity. Incidentally, it all occurred during the last week of the last month of perhaps the most important ratings book of the year. Yet, as an industry friend of mine noted, many stations didn't even acknowledge the event on their websites, and barely on the air. In other cases, Classic Rockers sent listeners to the show, but failed to update their sites as the events unfolded. As he noted from perusing Mediabase on Monday, many music logs looked like they might have been scheduled two weeks before. There simply wasn't any extra Zeppelin content. As he pointed out to me, a new definition of "In Through The Out Door" may as well have been "Out The Door At 5."
Let's face it - a major problem/challenge facing Classic Rock stations is the ongoing need to keep these stations sounding current. While there's no denying the greatness of the music, the reality is that these stations can become stale if they aren't nurtured, and energized on a regular basis.
But the good news is that there's no shortage of high-profile ways to do this - if stations are aggressive and smart enough to seize the opportunities. Yes, Zeppelin was the mega-event of the year, but what about everything else? Like the new movie featuring the many faces of Bob Dylan, I'm Not There. Or involving the audience to discuss what song Tom Petty will lead off during the Super Bowl halftime show next year. Or perhaps it's a flyaway to the Clapton/Winwood - Blind Faith reunion concert in New York.